I have been writing this blog since July of 2014. At one point, actually at multiple points, I became worried that I would run out of fresh topics to discuss. Much of the innovations that I knew of from even three or four years ago, were no longer of general interest. They had transformed from being cutting-edge technologies into being standard fare. But it seems that every time I become concerned about finding new concepts and new ideas to review, all I needed to do was visit my email and a number of standard technology websites, and once again there was a great deal to discuss.
I emphasize this because in the world of technology, even the month of the year is important. Something that was not openly discussed in January, is a hot topic at major conferences by the summer, and is being implemented by December. Even Microsoft came to realize that Apple’s approach of updating its operating system on a yearly cycle was in fact the better way to go, rather than wait many years in between Microsoft Windows updates. Microsoft is so eager to create a new view of its leading operating system, that Microsoft speaks of Windows 10 as being a free upgrade, even when the installed present version of Windows, is not entirely legal. It seems that Microsoft has drunk from the Kool-Aid and now believes that the number of users is more important than the income from each operating system sale, equivalent to the Google and Apple approach.
I just read an article which, like others that I have recently been reading, somewhat unnerved me. This article deals with technologies that would allow humans to create lucid dreams. A lucid dream is one in which the dreamer is aware and in control of the dream state. But still being a dream state, the dreamer is only limited by his or her imagination. It’s effectively the ultimate 3-D, totally enveloping video game, where the game is totally customized to the dreamer’s own desires. It should not be a surprise to anyone that there have been a number of science fiction movies that were founded on such a concept. Obviously, “The Matrix” is a classic example of a movie that deals with an individual’s total immersion in a dream state such that the person can never be escape it.
In the end of of 2014, people were speaking of their disappointment in Google Glasses and how this would delay augmented reality from becoming a commonly used technology, in day-to-day lives. Now, just a few months later, Microsoft has presented its stealth project called Holo-lens which could very well fundamentally change the entire computing experience that we have. And given the pace of technology advancements that make it possible to implant smaller and smaller chips in more and more locations, it could very well be that in three years from now, cutting-edge Holo-lens technology will be as “new” as last year’s fashions.
I must admit though that the idea of being able to manipulate our brain waves, and thus our moods and even our entire perception of our surroundings has serious risks. Risk has never held back technology, but the risks are there. Just as computers and robotics are starting to challenge the roles of many individuals in the workforce, we seem to be developing the kind of technologies that could allow a person to literally float in a virtual world for great lengths of time. And, if the person nevertheless becomes despondent and/or depressed about this reality, all it will take is another shot of electricity into the appropriate part of the brain, in order to switch that person’s mood to positive.
There should be no doubt that such technologies will also become extremely inexpensive within a short period of time, so that anyone and everyone will be able to partake in them. I’ll allow myself one philosophical question: does anything that a person does, matter in a moral sense, if that person is aware that it is all a dream?
Is there any way to avoid this? Is there any way to avoid a world where a relatively small number of people who still actively work, will be maintaining and servicing those who have effectively extracted themselves from regular society [as it is today]? What happens when a person simply decides that they want to live in a lucid dream for the rest of their lives, with their vital functions maintained by a minimal cost robotic system that handles feeding and waste disposal? Is such a person still considered viable? Should such a person still have the right to vote in whatever elections there will be, given the fact that such a person is literally not in any way a part of or affected by his or her surroundings?
I don’t have any magic answers. I will say this though. As with many things in life, there are two choices. You can let life happen to you, or you can guide yourself through life in order to increase your chances of things turning out the way you wish. If we simply wait for technology to wash over us and we ignore massive and fundamental changes in our society, then discussing such issues is moot. On the other hand, if we think proactively and decide to create legal, belief, and economic systems that take such technologies and life choices into account, then maybe there is a chance to continue to have a thriving society in the midst of, and while making use of, all of these technologies.
I don’t think there’s much time. Even now, we are all very well aware of the change in society where it is totally acceptable to answer a phone call in the middle of the meeting, or be totally engrossed in texting another, while sitting next to a loved one. What this shows is that human beings are actually incredibly flexible when it comes to societal rules. Things that we would consider inconceivable today, may be societal norms in just a decade.
No matter what happens, I will always come down on the side of being in favor of advancing technology. Until disease, hunger, war and human abuses are all stopped, I will be more than happy to lead the charge that calls for more and more technology to solve these issues. But I am well aware of the risks. Once the war is won, what will we have lost? I honestly don’t know. But I do think that everybody should start making an active effort to understand these trends and to prepare for them, as much as possible.
Thanks for listening